14 Unique Experiences to Enrich Your Trip to Japan
After long days spent visiting all of Japan's well-known and well-trodden tourist destinations, you might be in the mood for something a little different. Whether you're looking for something adventurous or relaxing, traditional or modern, this list has you covered with unique experiences you can add to your Japan itinerary.
Apr 25 2022 (Jun 06 2022)
1. Walk on Drift Ice (Hokkaido)
If you find yourself in Hokkaido during the winter months, why not head to the Shiretoko Peninsula to see the drift ice? If you want to do more than just watch the drift ice from the shore, you can take a ride on an icebreaker ship, or even join a tour and walk on it. Don’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
You’ll need reservations while in Japan. See our writers’ top picks!
2. Dive Into Ainu Culture at Akanko Ainu Kotan (Hokkaido)
A visit to Akanko Ainu Kotan is a must if you’re interested in learning about the history and culture of Hokkaido’s indigenous people. You can lose hours perusing the shops selling traditional handicrafts, including spectacularly detailed wood carvings and embroidery. Once you’ve bought all you can carry, be sure to head to the Lake Akan Ainu Theater to watch ancient dances that have been passed down through generations.
You can read more about our experiences at Akanko Ainu Kotan by checking out the following articles:
Enjoy the Culture of Japan's Indigenous Ainu People: A 5-Day Stay in Hokkaido's Akanko Ainu Kotan
Discover Ainu Heritage and its Coexistence With Nature at Lake Akan
Spend a Memorable Winter Adventure Among Japan’s Indigenous Ainu Traditions at Snowy Lake Akan
3. Explore Edo Wonderland at Nikko Edomura (Tochigi)
At this historical theme park in Nikko, you can experience what life was like in Edo (previous name for Tokyo) during the Edo Period (1603-1868). There are fun activities for all ages: you can dress up in Edo Period clothing, try throwing a shuriken (ninja star), or enjoy a leisurely boat cruise. Don’t forget to make time to watch a real-life ninja show and take photos with the Edomura mascot, Nyan-Mage, before you leave.
Here's our quick writeup on this amazing and unique theme park: Experience Traditional Japan! A Complete Guide to Edo Wonderland
4. Make Your Own Cup Noodles at the Cupnoodles Museum (Yokohama)
Would you like to learn about one of Japan’s most famous inventions? Then it’s time for you to head to the Cupnoodles Museum in Yokohama and learn all about the life of Momofuku Ando, the inventor of cup noodles. Follow this up by making your very own custom cup noodles to take home at the Cupnoodle Factory. And if all the noodle talk has made you hungry, then be sure to stop by the Noodles Bazaar for a hearty bowl of noodles before you leave.
You can read about other interesting Japanese museums here: 10 Most Unique Japanese Museums You Have to Visit At Least Once
5. Encase Yourself in Snow at the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route (Toyama & Nagano)
If you enjoy nature, the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is for you, although it is only open from April to November so be sure to check ahead! Traversing this route requires a combination of trolley buses, cable cars, and buses, and depending on the season, you’ll be treated to different scenery. In winter, you can see snow walls over 20 meters high, while summer and autumn have beautiful alpine flowers and autumn foliage. There are two ways to enter the alpine route, from Tateyama Station in Toyama Prefecture or Ogizawa Station in Nagano Prefecture, so you can choose whichever direction is most convenient.
6. Become a Master Chef in Japanese Cuisine (Japan-wide)
What better way to remember your trip than to add some new recipes to your repertoire? Various cooking classes can be found all over Japan, but be sure to keep your eyes out for unique classes such as those featuring regional specialties or seasonal ingredients. Food is a great way to learn about other cultures, and you’ll be able to impress all your friends back home with your culinary prowess after a class or two.
Here are two particular classes to consider joining:
Make udon and tempura
Make traditional Japanese "amezaiku" candy
7. Admire One of Japan's Most Famous Waterfalls at Yoro Park (Gifu)
Here’s another one to check out if you’re a nature lover! Yoro Park is not only home to one of Japan's most famous waterfalls, but also the intriguingly named "Site of Reversible Destiny." This is an experimental art project that encourages people to run and jump in and around various art installations scattered across 18,000 square meters of land. It's an experience that's truly like no other!
8. Dine by the River with Kawadoko (Japan-wide)
Kawadoko is the perfect way to cool off on a hot and humid summer evening. It’s all about enjoying a good meal while sitting by, or in some cases above, a river. While you can enjoy this refreshing experience at many restaurants across Japan, some of the most famous spots to enjoy kawadoko are along the Kamogawa River in Kyoto, as well as in Kibune, a small town about one hour north of Kyoto. Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends.
9. Practice Wabi Sabi by Trying Your Hand at Kintsugi (Japan-wide)
This one’s for the crafty types, or anyone who wants to make a truly unique souvenir to take home. Kintsugi is the traditional Japanese art of repairing pottery using lacquer mixed with gold. The underlying philosophy is wabi sabi, which is to highlight the imperfections and embrace them, making this experience all the more meaningful. There are many places that offer kintsugi experiences in Japan, including a few select Muji stores! Some places will even provide broken pottery for you to choose from!
10. Admire One of Japan's Best Autumn Leaf Views at Minoh Park (Osaka)
If you want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of urban Osaka, then head to Minoh Park, one of Japan’s oldest national parks. Autumn is the best time to visit, as you can see some of the most beautiful autumn foliage in the Kansai region. In fact, the area is so popular for maple leaves that they even have a local delicacy called "maple leaf tempura" that is made by aging maple leaves in salt for a year and then dipping them in batter and frying them. Pick up some on your way to Minoh Falls, one of the 100 most beautiful in Japan, but watch out for the monkeys who may just try to swipe your hard-earned snack!
For other amazing Osaka autumn foliage spots: 15 Select Spots for Beautiful Fall Foliage in Osaka
11. Practice Japanese Tea Ceremony (Japan-wide)
If you love tea and you'd like to practice the Japanese "omotenashi" or sense of hospitality, try learning the ways of the Japanese tea ceremony. While you can certainly pursue this anywhere in Japan, what better way to indulge than doing so in one of Japan's many famous tea regions? For example, there's Uji in Kyoto Prefecture which is known for its matcha, or Yame in Fukuoka Prefecture which many know for its famous Yame green tea.
Here's a more in-depth article on Japanese tea: Demystifying Japanese Tea – From Matcha to Sencha to Mugicha
12. Make Friends with Rabbits at Okunoshima (Hiroshima)
Okunoshima, a small island located in the Seto Inland Sea, is the perfect place to visit if you’re an animal lover. Once the site of a secret military base, the island is now home to hundreds of adorable rabbits. They’re very friendly, so you could easily spend the whole day petting them, but if you feel like exploring, you can rent a bike and cycle around the island, see some of the old military ruins, or take a swim at the beach.
Read more about this unique island: A Must-Visit for Rabbit Lovers! Okunoshima, an Island Removed from the Map
13. Ride Through Sand Dunes on Camels (Tottori)
This one’s another animal experience, but certainly not the kind you would expect to find in Japan: camel riding. That’s right, you can ride a camel while exploring the Tottori Sand Dunes. These sand dunes are the largest in Japan and form part of the San’inkaigan National Park. As you ride the camels through them, you would be forgiven for thinking you’re in a completely different country!
14. Immerse Yourself in a Traditional Japanese Festival (Japan-wide)
For those who want to really experience Japanese culture, visiting a traditional festival is a must. While summer is the peak season for festivals, they can take place at any time of the year, so it’s always worth checking if there are any happening at your destination. Depending on the type of festival, you might get to see parades or participate in unique customs, but one thing is for sure, there’s always delicious festival food! Keep an eye out for karaage (Japanese fried chicken), yakisoba (Japanese fried noodles), and candy apples, to name a few.
To make your trip to Japan truly unique consider adding some, or even all, of these fascinating experiences to your itinerary!
If you want to give feedback on any of our articles, you have an idea that you'd really like to see come to life, or you just have a question on Japan, hit us up on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.